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What funding is available in Northern Ireland for full-time undergraduates (or equivalent) studying in the UK?

By David Malcolm

Tuesday 19 March 2013 Higher education

Most higher education funding available from the government in Northern Ireland is for first full-time undergraduate or equivalent courses in the UK or Republic of Ireland. These include honours degrees, Higher National Diploma (HND), initial teacher training and also Postgraduate Certificate of Education (PGCE). The funding that’s available depends on when your course began or will begin, the course you’re taking, where you’re taking it and your personal circumstances.

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Also, you may want to take a look at the related topics.

Can I get higher education funding in Northern Ireland?

If you normally live in Northern Ireland, regardless of where you’re studying in the UK, you may be eligible for funding from Student Finance NI – a partnership between the Department for Employment and Learning in Northern Ireland, the Student Loans Company and all five Education and Library Boards in Northern Ireland.

To get the funding, you and your course must be eligible for it. For more details, see Can I get higher education funding in the UK?

If you’re attending a full-time distance learning course (eg with the Open University) you can’t get the support that’s available for other full-time courses. However, you’re entitled to apply for the part-time student finance package. For more information, see What funding is available in Northern Ireland for part-time undergraduates (or equivalent) studying in the UK?

If you’re taking a part-time initial teacher training course you can apply for a student loan, and possibly other support that’s available to full-time students.

Where can I study?

Funding from Student Finance NI is available if you’re undertaking a course at a university or college in Northern Ireland, England, Wales or Scotland, or at a publicly funded university or college in the Republic of Ireland.

If you study in England, Wales or Scotland, you can get the same funding as if you were studying in Northern Ireland. For students starting on or after 1 September 2012 who get their funding in Northern Ireland, Northern Ireland universities charge tuition fees up to £3,575 a year (this figure is for 2013/2014), and all other UK universities and colleges (including Scotland) charge tuition fees up to £9,000 a year.

If you’re taking a course at a UK or Republic of Ireland institution that includes a placement year during which you study outside the UK or Republic of Ireland, you still get funding from Student Finance NI for the year abroad.

However, if you want to take your entire course at a university or college outside the UK or Republic of Ireland, you can’t get the funding outlined here. See I want to study outside the UK – what higher education funding can I get?

I started my UK course on or after 1 September 2006 – what government support can I get?

If you started your course on or after 1 September 2006 at a college or university in the UK (not the Republic of Ireland) you can get the following support from Student Finance NI (the following figures are for 2013/2014):

  • Tuition fee loan: each year you can borrow the cost of your course fees, up to £3,575 if you’re studying at a university or college in Northern Ireland, or £9,000 if you’re studying elsewhere in the UK. The money is paid directly to your university or college, and you must pay back the loan when you’ve finished your course and you’re earning enough.
  • Maintenance loan: each year you can get a loan to cover living costs (eg accommodation, food, books). The amount you can borrow depends on your household income (your parents’ or partner’s income plus yours). You can borrow up to £4,840 a year if you live away from home and more if you live in London. If you live at home with your parents while you study you can’t borrow as much. You can borrow up to £5,770 if you spend a year of your UK course studying abroad. You can’t borrow as much during the final year of your course. The money is paid directly into your bank account, and you must pay it back when you’ve finished your course and you’re earning enough.
  • Maintenance grant: you can get a grant each year to help with your living costs, which you don’t have to pay back. The amount you can get depends on your household income – if that’s over £41,065 a year you don’t get anything. The maximum grant is £3,475, and the higher your grant, the less maintenance loan you can borrow. The money is paid directly into your bank account.
  • Special support grant: depending on your circumstances, you may get a special support grant instead of an maintenance grant (eg if you’re a single parent, disabled, eligible to receive income support or housing benefit). You don’t need to pay it back. The amount you get is the same as the maintenance grant and depends on your household income – but it doesn’t reduce the amount of maintenance loan you can borrow, and isn’t taken into account when calculating the means-tested benefits you’re entitled to.
  • Long courses loan: if you have to attend your course for longer than 30 term-time weeks (plus short holidays), you’re entitled to an additional loan to cover your living costs. The amount you get depends on your household income – up to £84 for each extra week if you live away from home, and more if you live in London or study abroad for a year. If you live at home with your parents while you study you can’t borrow as much. The money is paid directly into your bank account, and you must pay it back when you’ve finished your course and you’re earning enough.
  • Travel and insurance expenses: you can get a grant to pay for any reasonable travel costs you incur when attending clinical training somewhere other than your normal place of study as part of your medical or dentistry course. You can also get the grant if you’re attending a college or university outside the UK as part of your course for at least half of one term. The grant is normally the amount you’ve had to pay, less £309. If you’re studying at a college or university outside the UK for at least half of one term and you have to take out medical insurance, you can also get help to cover the cost of the insurance.

If you started your course before 1 September 2012, you can get the same package of support that was available the year you started your course. For example, you pay the same amount of tuition fees as you always have, and therefore you can get the same tuition fee loan as before.

Here’s Student Finance NI’s information on student finance, and this document contains more details. There’s also a calculator to help you get an idea of what you’re entitled to. Also, have a look at How and when do I repay my student loan?

I started my UK course before 1 September 2006 – what government support can I get?

If you started your course before 1 September 2006 at a college or university in the UK (not the Republic of Ireland), the funding you can get from Student Finance NI is different to what more recent students can get (the following figures are for 2013/2014):

  • Tuition fee grant: each year you can get a grant to help pay your tuition fees, of up to £1,380. The amount you get depends on your household income (your parents’ or partner’s income plus yours) after some deductions. The money is paid directly to your college or university, and you don’t need to pay it back.
  • Tuition fee loan: each year you can borrow the cost of your course fees that aren’t covered by your tuition fee grant, up to £1,425 a year. The money is paid directly to your college or university, and you must pay back the loan when you’ve finished your course and you’re earning enough.
  • Maintenance loan: each year you can get a loan to cover living costs (eg accommodation, food, books). The amount you can borrow depends on your household income. You can borrow up to £4,840 a year if you live away from home and more if you live in London. If you live at home with your parents while you study you can’t borrow as much. You can borrow up to £5,770 if you spend a year of your UK course studying abroad. You can’t borrow as much during the final year of your course. The money is paid directly into your bank account, and you must pay it back when you’ve finished your course and you’re earning enough.
  • Higher education bursary: each year you can get a grant to help with living costs. The amount you get depends on your household income – up to £2,000 if that’s £11,805 or less. You don’t get the bursary if your household income is over £23,605. The money is paid directly into your bank account, and you don’t need to pay it back.

You can get the same package of support that was available the year you started your course. For example, you pay the same amount of tuition fees as you always have, and therefore you can get the same tuition fee grant or loan as before.

This document includes Student Finance NI’s information for existing students. Also, have a look at How and when do I repay my student loan?

I’m studying in the Republic of Ireland – what funding can I get?

If you’re taking your course at a publicly funded university or college in the Republic of Ireland you don’t need to pay tuition fees – they’re paid by the Irish government.  

However, your university or college charges an additional €2,500 registration fee every year. This is paid for you by the Department for Employment and Learning during the usual duration of your course, but if you repeat a year the university or college charges more, and you have to pay anything over €2,500 during that or subsequent years. You need to apply to your local Student Finance NI office every year to make sure that the registration fee contribution is paid.

To cover your living costs while you study, you’re entitled to apply for a maintenance loan and higher education bursary in the same way as students studying in the UK who started their course before 1 September 2006 (see I started my UK course before 1 September 2006 – what government support can I get?).

If you’re starting your course in September 2013, the funding situation is going to change – keep an eye on the news from Student Finance NI.

What happens about funding if I change course, need an extra year or leave my course?

If you take time out from your studies, change your course or need an extra year, you should still be able to get funding, depending on your circumstances. For more information, see:

What other government support is available?

As well as the standard packages of government support outlined above, lots of other funding options are available, depending on your circumstances and the kind of course you’re taking.

Find out more here:

How do I apply for government funding?

You apply for funding through Student Finance NI. For more information, see How do I apply for higher education funding in Northern Ireland?

Where else can I get funding?

As well as government funding, you may be able to get funding from your academic institution, charities or other sources.

To find out more, see Can I get higher education funding from my university or college? and other sources of funding.

Related topics

What higher education funding is available in Northern Ireland?

I’ve already got a UK honours degree – can I get funding for more higher education?

I’ve undertaken a higher education course before – can I get funding again?

This information was updated in March 2013. NUS provides this information in good faith and has taken care to make sure it’s accurate. However, student finance issues can be complicated, and rules change frequently. You should contact the advice centre in your students' union, college or university for support if you’re uncertain or need more help.